In a recent episode of "Pawn Stars" (an American based program about a specific pawn shop in Las Vegas), someone brought in the Fender that he claimed belonged to the great Jimmy Hendrix himself. The very reputable expert who came out to check the guitar stated that Jimmy actually physically bend his guitar.

On my Ibanez G10 I can recreate that by applying a forward force on the neck, it basically gives you same effect as depressing the whammy bar. I would like to think that Jimmy used this neck bending technique for bardives as he was left handed playing on an upside down right-handed guitar on which he modified his whammy bar to avoid it from catching his left hand and arm when playing.

My question is, does this technique of actually bending a guitar good or bad for the guitar and what implications are there involved. I know that the use of whammy bars can detune guitars, and I would think the same is true for this guitar bending technique, so apart from detuning possibilities, does this technique hurt the guitar in the long run


3 Answers 3


Adrian Belew used this technique quite often with the Talking Heads, King Crimson and no doubt other artists he played with. I've seen concert footage of him doing it to an old rosewood necked Stratocaster. He doesn't treat it as a tremolo bridge substitute, but as a unique effect. He would fret a chord and then push against the upper horn of his guitar. To quote him directly:

"It's a very physical, emotional approach. When I'm bending the neck and the notes start feeding back, I actually feel it come through the guitar. My whole body hums with the guitar. We are one, as they say."19 He learned this technique from Bears guitarist Rob Fetters, who in turn got it from Ted Nugent in 1968. Belew continues to do it not only for the sound - he actually started the practice because he kept breaking tremelo arms - but also because "It looks good too."

Billy Sheehan also uses this technique on bass, and his signature Attitude bass from Yamaha has additional angled neck bolts that run at 45 degrees or so into the heel of the neck in a bit to reinforce the neck for this purpose.


Does it hurt the guitar? Well that would depend on how far you actually bending the pitch and how much pressure you are putting on the guitar. It will for sure produce more wear and tear on the neck of the guitar, but as long as you aren't really whaling on it, it should be fine. I have been using this technique for years and have not seen any negative side effects.

  • 1
    I too have been doing this without consequence, and I have been playing for 30 years and have only owned 4 electric guitars, two of which I traded in and two of which I have and use daily. But "no" Jimi Hendrix did not use this as a primary tool: if it sounded like an airplane in a nose-dive, it was not this technique. You get something like a wobble, not a full bend, that bends all the strings at once. It is most useful for when you bash the strings when they are open or you hit all the harmonics at the 12th fret etc. IF you try and get a full semitone bend you will probably snap the neck
    – Yorik
    Commented Mar 16, 2017 at 15:12
  • @Yorik very true, I am more thinking of the vibrato wobble. I don't this it would be possible the achieve more than that. Commented Mar 16, 2017 at 15:18
  • 1
    The effect is like the subtle bend you would get from a Bigsby vibrato, rather than the drop-off-a-cliff effect of a Fender-style vibrato.
    – ABragg
    Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 9:43

I would not recommend doing this, for a lot of reasons. The truss rod channel could become malformed because as you bend the neck the rod presses against surfaces harder than it otherwise would and it will begin to wear away at those surfaces (quickly) which will change the amount of play in the truss rod and you could have complications such as running out of thread to make adjustments or potentially breaking the truss rod or stripping the threads. Additionally, your bolt on neck guitar is certainly not designed to withstand that sort of force on the neck joint, and there's a good chance that you would be putting undo stress on joint that is poorly suited for the task. In addition to those issues, you are also putting a lot of stress on the glue bond between the rosewood fretboard on your guitar and its maple neck. While it is believed that a glue bond is stronger than a single piece of wood, the problem is that the way the grain runs on the maple neck and rosewood fretboard leaves the two pieces mated not to strands but fibers, meaning they can break apart from each other.

Finally, the way the frets seat in the fret slots is a fairly delicate arrangement, and on a Gio, that is probably already a fairly tenuous situation; by bending the neck forward or backward you are potentially encouraging that bond between wood and fret to break prematurely, and once you have one end of one fret going wonky, you'll have fret buzz, the diagnosing of which can lead to other suspicions which will quickly deprive you of time and money.

Summary, or tl;dr: Would not recommend doing it, at all.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.